Shooting Video with your DSLR (Part 5)

Stanley interviewing James Dockery, senior editor for ESPN. photo by: Jeff Raymond

Two Cameras

When I do my interviews I try to always use two cameras. There are many benefits like:

Backup of the interview if one camera fails
Different looks using slightly wide shot and a tight shot
Helps with editing

Let me talk a little about how much two cameras can help with editing. Almost all the time you need to edit someone’s comments. This means you cut something out and when you do it the person’s head will jump on the video and give us the telltale sign that you just cut something.

Now if you have two cameras you can switch camera angles and it doesn’t tip the audience that you cut something. It will just look like you went to a different angle.

Now if you have a slightly wider shot that includes the hands then when the person is quite talkative with their hands and not just their mouth it is good to include the hands.

Besides cutting out a long comment that really doesn’t add to the storyline there are times you need to rearrange their comments. Maybe the last thing they said would make the strongest lead for the story.

Again having that second camera lets you change angles and it will look like they started with this thought.

In the end you will help the subject sound more coherent and look like this was just a straight take and easier for the audience to absorb.

Reasons to redo the interview

The first time you do interview someone be sure and tell them you may need to come back the next day or two for a second interview.

Unless you are a seasoned pro most people will not catch everything happening in real time and will notice missing information during the post processing editing time.

If this happens I highly recommend having the subject redo the parts that you liked for several reasons.

They often have changed clothes
Matching the lighting and camera angles is difficult
Matching the sound can be difficult as well

You may want to even play the video parts you liked and have them rehearse a few times before you redo it. I have found that often the person realizes they can even say it better now that they have heard themselves.

I must tell you this funny story about a seasoned photographer learning to do video for the first time. He thought of locations he wanted to use as the background for the interview his subject.

We realized that while teaching we failed to tell people to do their interviews in one place. While in a still photo that would make since to show your subject in the different locations when it came time for editing the sound didn’t match, the lighting was so different and when you finished editing the content and put the takes in the logical order of how it best told the story the guy was jumping all over the city back and forth.

It was so funny. Just imagine the evening news where instead of going to Washington to listen to the correspondent there and then to West Coast correspondent to maybe an East Coast correspondent as well it was the same person. That was what it looked like.

If you do a good job with the interview and have a well thought out storyline being told by the subjects you should be pleased with the results that if this is all the audience saw and heard it would work.

One strategy for editing most any type of production is to do a “radio” edit. Focusing your cuts and the assembly of your timeline on the dialog [AUDIO] places the content of the story as the highest priority.

Once you have this done you will then work on getting visuals to supplement the audio. More on that in the next part of Shooting Video with your DSLR.

Some more technical tips

I recommend a magnifier for your LCD. You need to be sure your shot is in focus.

Another option is using a video monitor. The advantage of external monitor is not just bigger picture for focusing and exposure control, but with some monitors like this Atomos Ninja Blade 5″ HDMI On-Camera Monitor & Recorder is recording for longer periods of time than the time limits on most DSLR cameras. You are only limited to the size of the hard drive you use.

Atomos Ninja Blade 5″ PRODUCT HIGHLIGHTS

Key Features
– 325DPI, 5″ IPS 1280 x 720 capacitive touchscreen monitor/recorder.
– Waveform RGB & luma parade, vectorscope with zoom, and test pattern generator.
– Adjustable gamma, contrast and brightness.
– HDMI input and output.
– Real-time monitoring, playback, playout to a PC or Mac with QuickTime, and edit logging.
– Focus peaking, 0-100% zebra, and two modes of false color monitoring.
– Records 10-bit, 4:2:2 in ProRes or DNxHD.
– S-Log / C-Log recording.
– Trigger REC/STOP from camera (Canon, Sony, ARRI, Panasonic, RED, JVC)
– Timecode from camera. [Nikon has no timecode]
– 2.5″ HDD/SSD media storage.

It records up to 1080 30p/60i resolution via HDMI to an available HDD or SSD using either Apple’s ProRes or Avid’s DNxHD codecs. Recording at 10-bit with 4:2:2 color sampling, this unit provides you a monitoring and recording solution in one compact battery powered unit.

#1 Complaint in Multimedia/Motion Packages


Everytime I sit down and start to edit a package I continue to come up short with B-Roll. B-Roll is the supplemental or alternative footage intercut with the main shot in an interview or documentary. When Larry King interviews Bill Clinton, and footage appears of Clinton playing the saxophone on Asenio Hall in 1992, that is b-roll.

B-Roll goes back to the film days of labeling the 16mm film when editing. Around the 1980s when video was on tapes, many editors would label the decks in the edit suite. The A-Deck would contain the main interview and the B-Deck would often include the footage that the editor would use to compliment the interview.

All this is to say the term B-Roll isn’t new.

Today with our digital editing like Final Cut Pro X I like to think of A-Roll as the main track on the timeline. Below it might be some voice over or background music. Above the A-Roll is the B-Roll which can be still images or motion footage that I use to compliment the interview.

Just remember A-Roll is the interview and B-Roll are the images you use to compliment the interview.

General Editing Guidelines

Here are some guides I use when editing my motion package:

  • Titles 4 seconds [enough time to read them]
  • Still Images 3 – 10 seconds
  • Motion Interview 5 – 10 seconds
Keeping the Titles short and simple is key. If it takes longer to read the title slide than 4 seconds really consider changing it.
I like to use the Ken Burns effect which is a type of panning and zooming effect used in video production from still imagery. Here in the photo above you can see the start and end of a pan/zoom that I implemented.
I try and keep images up between 3 – 10 seconds. The only time I am really using 10 seconds is when I must pan across a photo that if I speed it up looks choppy. So the time is also keeping the movement smooth.
The advantage of most of my motion [Video] is it has movement going on in the frame. So this can be much longer if there is decent amount of movement taking place in the shot.
I try to use two cameras when I am interviewing someone. There are a few reasons I do this. First of all having a second angle really helps keep the visual becoming too stale.  I can switch between the two angles. 
In Final Cut Pro X I combine the two camera angles into a Multicam clip. Now I can choose which video or audio I want to choose. The two cameras are synced off of the audio files on each camera.
I use two types of microphones for the interview. On one camera I use the wireless lavalier Shure FP1 microphone on it with the WL183 (Omnidirectional).
On the second camera I use the shotgun Røde Video Pro microphone. I can later choose one or blend the sound if I choose.

The best sound would be a third choice of using a sound guy with a shotgun up above the person pointed slightly down 45º at their face in front of the subject.

Since I typically work alone I use the second best, which typically is the lavalier. Sometimes I blend the lavalier and the shotgun, but most of the time I prefer the sound from the lavalier for the human voice.

The Crisis
If you are trying to not bore the audience by the same long visual then you need B-Roll.  I have never been sitting at my computer using Final Cut Pro X or Adobe Premiere and not not been kicking myself for not shooting enough B-Roll.
The problem is not just the volume of B-Roll but the VARIETY of it.  
When you do your interview can impact the quality of your B-Roll. If you start with the interview and the person talks about what is getting ready to happen and then a lot of what they talked about doesn’t happen, then you have little opportunity to get that B-Roll.
After experiencing this a few times I started trying to do the interview at the end of my time shooting and asked the subject to summarize what we had seen that day. Now the B-Roll worked more often than before.
However, in the last scenario I still found that subjects would mention things that I would want to shoot specific B-Roll.
  • Try and keep your interview around the present unless you have a lot of B-Roll about the past.
  • Have a rough outline of your story before you shoot
    • create a list of B-Rolls shots based on what you think you may need
  • Shoot the subjects environment
    • If they have family photos on the walls or tables get B-Roll. I suggest stills and motion.
    • Photograph the home or office from the outside and inside
  • Shoot for sound
    • If during the interview you hear birds in the background, get some photos of them to drop in to help the audience 
    • If people are coming in and out of a screen door on a porch, get some motion of someone coming in and out and use it to help the audience with that sound.
  • Intro and endings
    • Shoot some scene setters to start your package, end it or use as bumps between interviews
  • Shoot textures
    • Textures make great title slides or backgrounds under the lower third titles to help the text be readable.
  • Shoot transitions
    • Moving the story along often means the subject will talk about childhood and then when they went to college for example. This might be a great place for showing your subject: getting in their car; getting out; going through a door; walking in a hallway; walking to you or walking away
    • Watch TV shows to see how they transition from one scene to another and this can give you more ideas
  • Play the interview back right after you do it and listen for all the visual cues that you can think of and write them down. Then go and shoot them.
  • Ask the subject for old photos and get copies of them or shoot a copy of them.
I find that for most of my projects where I have an interview that 90% of the work goes into the B-Roll and not the interview.